Determined Fitzpatrick earns bronze

Despite a determined effort, defending champion Susan Fitzpatrick had to settle for the bronze medal yesterday at the European Pony Championships in Millstreet, Co Cork, after a closely-fought battle.

Determined Fitzpatrick earns bronze

The 15-year-old Kilkenny show jumper had picked up a team silver on Friday with Rock Dee Jay and was close to adding a second gold to that won in Italy last year, but was caught out by a single error over six rounds.

Ireland manager Tom Slattery felt there was plenty of reason to celebrate.

“It was a very high standard of jumping. There were four in the jump off for two medals. It’s a good result against stiff opposition.

“She has one more year in ponies, so, hopefully, we might convince her to go again next year. They’re a fantastic partnership. We need ponies like that,” said Slattery after a show that was universally praised.

France’s Nina Mallevaey (Rominet De Bruz) was in pole position going into yesterday’s grand prix having been flawless in the preceding days, as she helped her team to the gold. However, four faults in round one saw the lead handed to her compatriot Ninon Castex (Quabar des Monceaux). The latter had accumulated just two time faults ahead of yesterday’s decider and secured victory by adding just one more fault in the second round, putting her a single fault better off than a quartet on four.

This left Fitzpatrick and her three rivals to battle it out for the silver and bronze medals. Having taken the lead in the jump-off, she was subsequently outpaced by Belgium’s Arnaud Gaublomme (Goliath van de Groenweg).

Slattery has led the Irish team to European success in three of his four years at the helm, but has himself returned to competing and felt it was to early to say if he would continue as manager.

“I get tremendous satisfaction from the job. Everyone involved is very helpful and supportive of my role, but I’m back riding horses for Georgina Forbes. I’ll have to sit down and think it out. If I do something, I like to give 100%,” said the Galwayman, who returns with 10 horses to Millstreet for the summer show next week.

In the pony eventing contest, Ireland finished fifth of the eight teams, but only because three-rider Sweden was eliminated on the cross-country, while Belgium and the Netherlands failed to make it past yesterday’s vet inspection.

France scored 134.20 penalties to add team and individual gold — the latter won by Victor Levecque on Qualitat des Bourdons — capping a superb week that also saw them claim team gold in show jumping. Britain were second on 141pens, while Italy lifted bronze on 150.8pens.

The Irish team of Lucy Hancock (Newtown Westie, 59.70pens), Sophie Buller (G Maha, 80.80pens), Patrick Dennehy (Rose Down, 107.7pens) and Fionn Clarke (Black Velvet Band, 110.80pens) scored a total of 248.20pens.

Ireland’s contest was in trouble from the start, placing third last after dressage. The belief that something could be pulled from the bag in Saturday’s cross-country looked misplaced from early on.

Fence 8, a drop from a big bank directing riders to a skinny hedge, was the bogey for many, including three of the Irish. Pathfinder Dennehy, on the 14-year-old bay mare Rose Down, had already had problems at fence six, before a repeat at fence eight, with the latter also accounting for Buller and the 17-year-old chestnut gelding G Maha. Lucy Hancock opted to go the long route at fence eight with the 16-year-old gelding Newtown Westie and it paid off, coming home at a cost of just 6.4pens. Fionn Clarke was the anchor aboard Black Velvet Band, and taking the direct route at eight proved injudicious when the nine-year-old skewbald mare ran out.

Gold medal winner Levecque opted for long route at fence 8 and, when Ireland manager Polly Holohan was asked, if she thought, with the benefit of hindsight, if Irish riders should have done likewise, she said: “Probably. Although, with their preparation and team training, in that they were so good, I would have put all my money on Patrick and Fionn jumping clear over the direct route. I was gobsmacked, when that didn’t happen, but that’s the way it goes. They were all going straight, bar Lucy. By the time it came to Fionn, we didn’t have a shout anyway, and since she had a possibility of winning bronze, she was keen to take the direct route.

“Even if they all finished on their dressage scores, they would only have placed 4th, so that’s something we have to work on.

“Looking at the positives, all 12 Irish riders completed the competition, which provides experience for the future.

“Also, our best ponies tend to get sold and you end up starting with a young inexperienced bunch, as I had this year,” said Holohan, who took up the post in February. “For example, Blue Velvet Band is only nine. Some of the best Irish ponies, with huge experience, are on foreign teams.

“Experience counts at this level in any sport.”

At Hickstead, teenager Bertram Allen embellished an already impressive CV when placing second on Romanov in the prestigious Longines King George V Cup to pocket €40,000.

The Wexford rider, who turned 19 this week, held the lead until the vastly-experienced Beezie Madden, last to go, made history when becoming the first woman to win the class in its 108-year history aboard Cortes C.

German-based Allen — who earlier won an accumulator class on Wrangler II — described stallion Romanov as “a very careful horse but sometimes not the bravest”.

“I knew it was going to be a challenge for him coming here with the big ring, and the big jumps on grass, but he definitely learnt from his round earlier in the week.”

Hickstead-based Tipperary rider Shane Breen was among 14 in the jump-off and placed fifth with Golden Hawk, earning €12,000.

Last year, Breen won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup with Zarnita, and, on Saturday, he watched his younger brother Trevor do likewise on the one-eyed wonder horse Adventure de Kannan. It came just a month after the duo won the famous Hickstead Derby. The pair have a phenomenal record at the Sussex venue, having also won the British Speed Derby (2009), the Amlin Plus Eventing Grand Prix (2012), and the All England Grand Prix (2012).

At Gatcombe Horse Trials in England, Kildare native Aoife Clark and Fenyas Elegance — bred and owned by West Cork man PJ Hegarty — concluded their preparations for the World Equestrian Games in style by winning the advanced class with jumping clears in show jumping and cross-country. Two months ago, the Oxfordshire-based rider and the mare claimed their second three-star English title at Bramham.

At the South County Show in Coilog, Co Kildare, Daniel Coyle notched up a grand prix double on Zuidam, rounding off yesterday with his first win of the season in the Horseware/TRM Premier Series.

Just 20 lined out for the €10,000 class, and the Derry rider had over two seconds advantage on Gerard Clarke (Ardragh Stein), with Vincent Byrne (Hannibal V Overis Z) in third.

On Saturday, Coyle and the 10-year-old stallion filled the top spot in the TRM/Horseware National Grand Prix class, whicl also taking second place on Uptown Girl.

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